Stiliani "Ani" Chroni and Frank Abrahamsen
The evolution in sport, exercise, and performance psychology in Europe goes back to the 1800s and spread from the east (Germany and Russia) to the west of the continent (France). Modern European sport psychology theorizing started with Wilhelm Wundt, who studied reaction times and mental processes in 1879, and Philippe Tissié, who wrote about psychological changes during cycling in 1894. However, Pierre de Coubertin was the one to put forward the first definition and promotion of sport psychology as a field of science. From there on, and despite obstacles and delays due to two world wars in Europe, sport psychology accelerated and caught up with North America. Looking back to the history of our disciplines, while sport, exercise, and performance psychology evolved and developed as distinct disciplines in Europe, sport and exercise psychology research appear to be stronger than performance psychology. The research advancements in sport and exercise psychology led to the establishment of the European sport psychology organization (FEPSAC) in the 1960s, as researchers needed an umbrella establishment that would accept the cultural and linguistic borders within the continent. From there on, education programs developed throughout Europe, and a cross-continent program of study with the collaboration of 12 academic institutions and the support of the European Commission was launched in the late 1990s. Applied sport psychology was practiced in the Soviet Union aiming to enhance the performance of their teams in the 1952 Olympics. Unfortunately, in many countries across Europe, research and practice are not comprehensively integrated to enhance sports and sportspersons, and while applied practice has room to grow, it also has challenges to tackle.
Vincent J. Granito
The history of sport, exercise, and performance psychology in North America dates back to the late 1800s. However, these professionals typically conducted research in the area of motor learning and development, with little connection to other efforts and researchers. They struggled to forge an identity with the parent disciplines of psychology and physical education. By the 1930s, sport psychology was beginning to take shape in the form of topics that would become the foundation of the field. Professionals were also starting to provide services to athletes, such as Coleman Griffith with the Chicago Cubs in 1938. The field came into its own during the 1950s and 1960s as established research labs and educational opportunities became available to students who would go on to develop further opportunities during the 1970s and 1980s. The scholarly journals were launched, professional organizations were set up, and graduate programs were created. Exercise psychology became a subdivision of the field during the 1970s fitness craze, and performance psychology developed into a specialty in the 1980s. This rich history provides a framework for the current makeup of the field and direction for the future.
Clinton Gähwiler, Lee Hill, and Valerie Grand’Maison
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
The past five decades have seen significant growth in the related fields of sport, exercise, and performance psychology. This growth, however, has not occurred evenly throughout the world, and Southern Africa is one region that has seen slower development in these fields. Other than isolated pockets of interest, there has been little teaching, research, or practice.
South Africa is an exception, however, which even during the apartheid era had some university-based researchers who engaged with the international community. In fact, quite a few international sport psychology pioneers visited South Africa during the 1970’s on sponsored trips. Virtually all of this activity took place in the economically advantaged sectors of the country, and it is only since the end of apartheid in 1994 that applied services have been extended to the economically disadvantaged areas, through both government and private funding.
The past few years have also seen a gradually growing awareness in other Southern African countries, who have started sporadically using (mainly foreign-based) sport psychology consultants. Botswana, however, is currently leading the way in developing locally based expertise.
Throughout the Southern African region, sport, exercise, and performance psychology remain organizationally underdeveloped and unregulated. Local researchers and practitioners in the field face some unique challenges, including the multi-cultural environment. In striving to overcome these however, they have the potential to add significantly to the global knowledge-base of sport, exercise, and performance psychology.